Get Waisted

by Ami Kealoha
Diana Vreeland declared blue jeans the most beautiful thing since the gondola and Coco Chanel introduced pants to the fashion world, but Katharine Hepburn helped define an era when she transformed a scandalous appropriation of men's clothing into an iconic look. Now, Karen Walker, a Kiwi designer known for her tailored street-wear, has become an arbiter of trousers that take a cue from Hepburn's signature style. Like the muse herself, the new take on the emblematic slacks succeed in their daring panache. Walker's "opposites attract" theory of design effortlessly updates the utilitarian staple with rebellious glamour. Her skillful rendition—like Hepburn's attitude—is less a flat rejection of current styles than it is a characteristically bold move. Here is our three-points bulletin on these infinitely chic bottoms:
1. The much-ballyhooed return of the waist is evident in rises that measure to the navel and, in some cases, creep even higher by a few inches, grazing the rib cage and adding a sailor-suit-like appeal.
2. Elongated, floor-skimming lengths mimic A-line dresses, creating striking new silhouettes that are both elegant and—in Walker's idiosyncratic plaid—not without reference to retro raver-meets-grunge looks. No wonder critics call her the Australian Marc Jacobs.
3. Dark denim and near empire-waisted overalls (another strong trend in recent collections) look grown-up, urban, and slightly irreverent.
Karen Walker is available in New York at TG-170 and Elizabeth Charles and in Los Angeles at Creatures of Comfort and Satine.
New Zealander Karen Walker's high waists and wide legs are a freshly feminine, '40s-era answer to the glut of tapered trousers.

More from Fashion

R29 Original Series